How do we live a life that is both effective and honouring to God? In The Gospel of John, Jesus points out to the disciples that he did not do anything on his own, he only did what he saw his Father was doing. John 5:19-21,30 (CEV) Jesus told the people: I tell you for certain that the Son cannot do anything on his own. He can do only what he sees the Father doing, and he does exactly what he sees the Father do. The Father loves the Son and has shown him everything he does. The Father will show him even greater things, and you will be amazed. Just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants to. I cannot do anything on my own. The Father sent me, and he is the one who told me how to judge. I judge with fairness, because I obey him, and I don’t just try to please myself.
So how do we know what God is wanting us to do and what he does not want and how
do we more easily see where God is working and seek to follow his lead in our everyday
circumstances? The examen is a devotional exercise which we can use, a helpful way for
us to seek how God in working in our lives.
Throughout the centuries prayerful people have found direction for their lives through the practice of the examen… The examen provides a way of noticing where God shows up in our day. It is a practice that attends to what we might otherwise miss in the press of duties and busyness. The questions of the examen open our attention to how God’s internal movement is present in our external comings and goings. They lead us to listen deeply to the data of our lives. These questions help us pay attention to our mental state, our body responses and our emotional baggage. Our insomnia, nervous stomach, difficult interaction and headache can all take their place as a possible way of more deeply leaning into God. The examen helps us recognise the things that bring us death and life. Once these things are known, they become part of our ongoing interaction with God in prayer. The examen can open us to both the difficult and beautiful in our lives, relationships and profession. The examen is also a useful way of reflecting alone or with others on what God is saying to us through a meeting, a class, a meal, a service project, a
relationship or a conflict. Examen questions include:
When did I give and receive the most love today?
When did I give and receive the least love today?
What was the most life-giving part of my day?
What was the most life-thwarting part of my day?
When today did I have the deepest sense of connection with God, others and myself ?
When today did I have the least sense of connection?
The examen is a wonderful tool for discerning the places you feel most alive, most grateful, most present to the fruit of the Spirit as well as the times and places where you do not. Those with melancholic tendencies may find that while the day’s low points stand out clearly, they need the examen to help them recognise the life-giving moments the Spirit brings during the day. Those naturally inclined to optimism need the examen to help them name the difficult things in life. The examen invites attention to both low and high points, recognising both of these as an invitation to prayer. Perspective and direction for the future happen through listening to where and how God shows up in your day and then interacting with God in prayer. Awareness of the Spirit’s enlivening and enlightening presence puts you in touch with the kind of person God created you to be. When you begin to recognise who God created you to be, you have the raw material for discerning God’s unique call and design for your life. *
If we love God and obey Him, the Holy Spirit will be sent to help us. John 14: 15-16 (CEV) Jesus said to his disciples: If you love me, you will do as I command. Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you.
May we live our lives more aware of the effect we are having on the people around us and seek out the presence of God, because that is where he is working, and together he will enable us to be his hands and his feet, as we live a life seeking to please him each moment of every day.
* Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, IVP Books, p53
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